The North Coast Inland Trail (often abbreviated as NCIT) is a work-in-process multipurpose trail project that currently consists of several separate portions, defined by their counties, in northern Ohio, United States. Affiliates with the trails have high hopes to connect all of these portions and to extend the trails into Indiana and Pennsylvania, two of Ohio's land-bordering states.
In 1992, several park districts agreed to create a series of connecting trails across the state of Ohio. The non-profit organization Firelands Rails to Trails, Inc. gave the project the collective name "North Coast Inland Trail" in 2000.
The North Coast Inland Trail is mostly funded by the federal government, but is also partially funded by private organizations and local governments.
The trails are designed to cover many different landscapes, including farmland, urban areas, and forests. Many of the trails follow railroads. Some of these trails are paved over abandoned railways, while others follow alongside active railroads. Because of road obstacles, the trails themselves sometimes cut off before large cities and highways, and signs are placed throughout the open cities or areas, leading the followers to the next segment of the trails, which, in some cases, can be slightly hazardous.
The trails are also designed to "allow people within [counties] to easily move from community to community" and to "connect people and neighborhoods," as stated by Jim Ziemnik, the director of the Lorain County Metro Parks district. The convenience of the trails is also believed to help enhance the real estate appraisal of community homes near the trails.
Because the North Coast Inland Trail is not yet complete, it is currently separated into several disconnected portions that are generally defined by specific counties. The North Coast Inland Trail also has many small and incomplete segments in many areas of northern Ohio besides in these three counties, such as in Wood County, Ottawa County, and Lucas County, which are planned to eventually be expanded and connected. The following are the three prominent portions of the project:
The Huron County portion of the trails is about 20 miles long and extends from Bellevue, through Monroeville and Norwalk to Collins. This portion is not completely paved; some parts are dirt trails. This portion of the trail is constructed over what were several abandoned railways managed by several defunct railroad companies. The Huron County portion was the first trail to be labeled as a part of the North Coast Inland Trail, and was established by and is maintained by the nonprofit organization Firelands Rails to Trails.
The Lorain County portion of the trails is 13 miles long, is completely paved, and extends from Elyria to Kipton. The entire trail particularly follows several abandoned railways. This portion of the trails was established by and is managed by the park district Lorain County Metro Parks.
The Sandusky County portion of the trails is 27 miles long, is completely paved, and extends from Bellevue to the Ottawa County city of Elmore. The segment of this trail that extends from Bellevue to Clyde was built in 2012. Part of the Sandusky County trail follows an active railroad, and at one point also runs on a bridge across the Sandusky River in the city of Fremont. This portion of the trails was established by and is managed by the Sandusky County Park District.
The project's eventual objective is to connect the state of Indiana to the state of Pennsylvania with a large bike trail, but the project has not at all yet extended to either of these states. However, users of the trails can also connect to one of these states if they take other nearby, unrelated trails.
There are also many improvement and expansion plans for the current Ohio trails. The Lorain County Metro Parks district in Lorain County has done improvements to the Lorain County portion that costed hundreds of thousands of dollars, which Ziemnik said "was not a financial risk for [them]."
An example of a recently added extension of the trails is the Huron County portion's extension, which leads through the entire city of Norwalk in order to eventually connect into a planned trail segment in Erie County. This portion is not a paved trail, but leads followers through the city using green-painted curbs, which is unique to any other segment of the project.
The most recent extension to the trail project is a 1.8-mile gravel trail in Lorain County that follows an abandoned railroad, which is planned to later be paved over and connected to the prominent trail in Lorain County.
The trails are always open, and the trail regulations allow biking, walking, and inline skating. However, they do not allow motor vehicles, with the exception of staff, ranger, and handicap service vehicles. The regulations also do not allow skateboards.
A yearly marathon is held exclusively in Elyria on the North Coast Inland Trail called the Inland Trail Marathon. The results of the marathon are split between male and female participants.
In 2006, more than 150 cyclists took a 3-day bicycle trek starting from Williams County, Ohio near the Indiana borderline and ending at Oberlin, Ohio. One of the trails that this trek underwent was the Lorain County portion of the North Coast Inland Trail.
In October 2014, a geocaching event was held in Lorain County. Some of the geocaches were hidden along the North Coast Inland Trail.